Suncorp's decision to ditch a 20,000 PC refresh and encourage staff to use personal computers may be revolutionary, but despite curiosity about CIO Jeff Smith's decision, other blue-chip organisations aren't anywhere near following in his footsteps.
Bring your own (BYO) computing, which has emerged as a corporate response to users demanding support for their own Macs, iPhones, iPads and other devices, has come into vogue as increasing use of desktop virtualisation makes it both practical to manage and efficient to deliver.
Suncorp's move is the culmination of several years consideration of the implications of the BYO model, and is being closely watched by other organisations that recognise its promise for simplifying user support and reducing the cost of business-funded capital programs.
But with many questions lingering in areas like data security, the model is still like "waking a dragon", according to Australia Post CIO Wayne Saunders, speaking at a CIO forum at last week's Cisco Live! conference in Melbourne.
"It's an area we want to look at, but we're still locked in the Microsoft world," Saunders explained. "We're looking at how we can put more back into the data centre, and [with BYO] the opportunity to lose data is reduced because of the way you operate. But it's one thing to talk about doing it and another thing to enact it. And it's very interesting for a bank to go down that path."
Cisco Systems chief technology officer Padmasree Warrior said her company had seen substantial benefits after rejecting a formal Mac laptops program, but she encouraged the creation of an online community that provides support for employees who prefer to use their own Macs for Cisco work.
"There was a lot of demand to bring Macs into the business," Warrior explained. "There was a self-support organisation helping each other in problem solving for the Macs, which actually helped Cisco lower the cost that IT was putting into system administration.
"This was a reverse benefit the IT organisation got," she continued. "People were really happy because they could bring their own computers in, and IT were happy because it lowered their system administration costs for some of these applications."
As a technology provider, Cisco is often ahead of the curve — as are its employees, many of whom likely see providing informal support as a show of collegiality. For other businesses, the jury is still out.
"I'm just not considering it," Ric Lamb, CIO of Crown Group, told the panel audience, arguing that it won't be possible to safely enable BYO computing until issues like contextually and locationally aware security are resolved in technology and in business policy. When delivering the conference's opening keynote, Warrior named these capabilities as some of the next-generation goals Cisco is pursuing to enhance its infrastructure in the future.
"When people ask what keeps me awake at night, for me it's information leakage even more than systems failure," Lamb explained. "I have to have the ability to say 'you are in an airport lounge and I am not going to give you access to this information'. You've got to have the architecture to make it work — so while yes, I'd love to move down [the BYO] path, I'm not going to do it unless I can sleep at night."